Nov
14

There’s always room for improvement

November 14, 2017, by

brendan smith

In case you missed it, the Rangers have won six in a row and have stormed back into relevancy for this year’s NHL season. They’ve done it on the backs of the KZB line, balanced secondary/tertiary scoring, and a Henrik Lundqvist that is giving the middle finger to his doubters. What they haven’t done, though, is optimize the lineup and improve where there are clear improvements to be made.

It’s no coincidence that the winning streak started when Alain Vigneault stopped with the silliness of dressing eleven forwards and seven defensemen. That was one improvement that helped turn the team around (a regression to the mean for SH% is also a primary catalyst for this as well). But one thing to note, something that applies to life as well as sports, is that bad decisions may net good results sometimes in the short term, but in the long run will lead to bad results.

The most glaring and obvious improvement that can be made is getting Brendan Smith back in the lineup. I get it, he was out of shape. So you sit him for a few games, get him back into shape, and then get him back in the lineup. He is better than Steven Kampfer.

That is not an opinionated statement, it is fact, as shown above. Kampfer is a replacement level NHL defenseman, Smith is a second pairing defenseman. A few games in October in his age-28 season is going to go against Smith’s prior body of work? I have a hard time understanding that logic.

The argument for leaving the lineup the way it is has been that they are winning. For starters: Bull. Since they are winning, the team should stop the hunt for a 2C? I doubt any will agree to this, so why should Smith, the better player, be benched for Kampfer?

Another reason why the whole “we are winning, don’t change things” makes no sense: Remember when Henrik Lundqvist took a puck to the throat and was out for six weeks? Cam Talbot played brilliantly in that stretch. But at no point did the Rangers even consider leaving Hank on the bench when he was ready. Why? He’s the better goalie. You play your best players.

One last reason to play Smith – you just invested four years and more money than I’ll make in my lifetime for a guy that is now riding the pine. The draft picks used to acquire him are sunk cost at this point in time, but the contract is still lingering. Even if the idea is to trade him, benching him does not help in that regard.

At this point, the benching has taken on a life of its own. It’s no longer about sending a message that a player was out of shape. It’s becoming a story and a distraction for a team that really can’t afford to have one right now. This winning streak is simple math correcting itself (SH%) and finally having a balanced lineup (12F/6D). At some point, the optimal lineup needs to be dressed.

"There's always room for improvement", 3 out of 5 based on 25 ratings.
Categories : Players

37 comments

  1. Rjcy says:

    Simply: YES

  2. SalMerc says:

    B. Smith will get in later this week. You should try to find charts for Kampfer vs. B. Smith this year. I suspect that chart shows a different story.

    Winning streaks beg for things NOT to change. Let him watch a few more, especially if we continue to win.

    • James1090 says:

      No offense, but Kampfer is not on Smith’s level as a player. Never has and never will. Kampfer is a 7/8th defenseman on mos teams. The fact that he is playing over Smith is a joke.

      • Matt R says:

        I am pretty sure the next time Brendan Smith is about to take a bonehead risk he will remember sitting for 7 straight games – this is the beauty in scratching a starting player. This has nothing to do with who is the better player, this has everything to do with showing the locker room that pro sports is a game of “what have you done for me lately?” Lately, Brendan Smith has been too risky, and hopefully he realized that while watching games from above center ice.

        • Walt says:

          Matt

          Agree, only if the standard is the same for everyone on the team!!

          • Matt R says:

            Walt,

            If this is about a player like Staal, let us talk about the difference. When Staal makes a mistake, it is generally because he makes a bad defensive read, gets beat with speed, or makes a poor pass due to skill limitations. All players make mistakes, it is human nature – the difference between the mistakes that a player like Staal will make and a player like Brendan Smith is based on intention. Brendan Smith’s mistakes at the start of the season were due to taking risks, making plays he couldn’t recover from in the offensive zone, and generally making consistently bad reads. To compare that to a player that is trying to play the game the right way and genuinely makes a mistake doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t love Staal, but i think he is a more than serviceable top 6 defenseman. Staal doesn’t need to be scratched for 7 games to remember his responsibilities.

            • Walt says:

              Matt

              What we don’t know about Smith, and I could be wrong, but AV likes a wide open game, and maybe, just maybe, he took those risks due to that thought process. I’m not saying he should be playing, I believe you earn the time, and have stated so on many occasions. AV has got to be consistent with the way players are treated, no special treatment because your teeth are long, as in older players.

              I wasn’t thinking about Staal per se, but overall, AV shows all kinds of restraint when it’s one of his boys. and has a very short leash when it’s not one of his boys. I’m not saying the Chytle kid is ready for the show, but don’t tell me that after six minutes of playing time, in what three games (?), AV was showing patients, and gave the kid an honest assessment of his abilities, I think not. Again, if the coach shows fairness to everyone, then I’m fine with benching a player for making a mistake, but history has shown us that isn’t the case with this coach!!!!!

      • craig says:

        Obviously this year so far he has been better then Smith and may improve as he plays more. Smith will get his chance again, but though in the past a somewhat steady defenseman,he was never an all-star either. Rangers may have overpaid a tad for him, we shall see. They have been winning with Kampfer in the lineup, bottom line.

    • upstate tom says:

      he should NEVER have been out of shape !!! it’s his own damn fault he’s not playing !!

      • Playground 9 says:

        Totally Agree Tom. I had no idea that was the reason. If he is as good as Dave thinks he is play him and then trade him. Maybe Vegas will give us Oscar back?

        How Gorton could think he could give away 50% of our centers and expect to contend was absurd…..

    • Richter1994 says:

      I bring you back to 2016/17:

      Oct/Nov = Stanley Cup

      April = Tin Cup

      The narrative that you keep the same line up because you’re on a winning streak in November with an inferior line up based on the players you have is extremely flawed.

      The Rangers have not one game because of Kampfer for Smith. I bet my life on it.

      • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

        The flip side….2013-14 early on….train wreck. June…SCF.

        Bigger picture, I agree. But there is no reason at all to do this now. It can happen a week from now. A month from now. It all depends on three things we know NOTHING about.

        A) How out of shape is Smith? We have no idea. And how long will it take to find his game? No clue.

        B) When and if the kids are ready to contribute, then one can be called up. Bringing them up before they are ready would be a colossal mistake that could cost them a playoff spot.

        C) We have no idea about trade possibilities. Maybe Kampfer and Holden are being showcased as part of a bigger deal.

        It’s working at the moment. No one is suggesting this is the answer long term. If it ain’t broke at the moment, don’t fix it. But the planning for the eventual fix I’m sure is well underway.

  3. King Sieveqvist ! King Sieveqvist ! says:

    I hope the 3.5 days off doesn’t interrupt the flow

  4. James says:

    As Bull Durham once said, “Dont mess with a winning streak”

  5. RichS says:

    Stall has been playing ”’OK”’ ”’well”’ or ”’terrible”’ depending who you talk to, BUT at some point I would like to see Smith play a bunch of games on his natural left side, in place of stall.Even give sjkel and mcdonagh a game off to stay fresh. IMHO I think it is a LOT easier to play defense from your natural side…..although it seems to give you an advantage on offense to play the off wing……but it might help smith get back to where he was last year.
    Thats why losing strallman years ago hurt even more, because we dont have many RHD !

    • Bloomer says:

      I guess you missed the Tampa Bay game when the Rangers used Stralman like a Pilon. The only thing Stralman has going for him in Tampa is his partner Victor Hedman.

      • RichS says:

        Did not see entire game , only parts, but hard to believe he has lost it this quickly! I would imagine he is still major improvement over kampher and stall .

  6. Go F Yourself says:

    As far as I’m concerned Smith played himself out of the lineup. Homie didn’t do jack in the offseason to prepare for camp and came in out of shape to which he’s become a detriment to not only the team but himself. Plus he was already healthy scratched once for playing like shit and he didn’t get the message so he got banished again. In the long term we need him but Kampfer has played fine. When Smith comes back into the lineup it’ll be up to him to stay there.

    • jeff says:

      No joke but B Smith put a ring on it during the summer. That was enough to mess with Hercules. Hopefully she will encourage him to play on the ice.
      Face it…..unless he has just lost it, and it does happen, he will come back from his seat and play like he did when we first got him……..or he has an AV problem and will play well enough to get traded.
      Shame!
      In any event, watching Kampfer on the tube……which is only 1/4 of what happens on the ice he seems to be playing well enough for a 6 or 7.

  7. amy says:

    the schedule seems good they are in Chicago for Wednesday night Rivalry on NBCSN and then in Columbus on Friday then back at home for Ottawa in the rematch of the second round which Ottawa Won looking forward to seeing Brass

  8. Chris A says:

    Right now … and that’s all that matters, Smith is terrible. He’s been a liability since the exhibition season.

    Why this is even being discussed is nuts. Smith will play when Smith proves he’s ready to play. This isn’t some bizarre chateau bow wow type of benching. Smith has looked worse than Wade Redden ever did in Blue in the games he’s played this season.

    We should be grateful that an able bodied replacement in Kampher is on the roster to pick up his ailing teammate instead of moaning that a clear liability is not being sent over the boards every third shift.

    Again, posters on this very blog moaned for three straight seasons that AV wouldn’t sit Dan Girardi in favor of various young stiffs that are far from the NHL at the moment. Now that Smith is being sat for playing poorly and a capable replacement is in his place, AV is being skewered for not giving the vet a chance.

    Smith is almost certainly being tested daily by the coaching and training staff. When he makes the grades, he will play. AV knows Smith, at his peak, is part of his top 4 D. If Smith can’t skate enough to cover the opposition and keep fore check pressure off of himself so he can avoid turnovers, then what use is there in dressing the guy?

    • Egelstein says:

      “Smith will play when Smith proves he’s ready to play.”

      With this coach, that is far from a guarantee.

      “Again, posters on this very blog moaned for three straight seasons that AV wouldn’t sit Dan Girardi in favor of various young stiffs that are far from the NHL at the moment. Now that Smith is being sat for playing poorly and a capable replacement is in his place, AV is being skewered for not giving the vet a chance.”

      There is a middle ground, here. Danny Five was given a lot of rope to hang himself with; too much. Literally for years. Smith had an uninspiring preseason and looked terrible for a handful of games, and now he is in the Adam Clendening Memorial Suite for what, two weeks now? Those two treatments are not at all the same, and I find it perfectly acceptable that fans could have a problem with both approaches.

      I’m also personally not buying that somehow Smith went from a professional athlete to retired grandpa in terms of physical fitness over the course of a summer. I don’t like how he played in the initial games of the season either, but there has got to be more to this than he just simply ate nothing but doughnuts all summer.

      • Matt R says:

        “…and now he is in the Adam Clendening Memorial Suite for what, two weeks now?”

        I laughed for a solid 5 seconds on that one, thank you.

        “I’m also personally not buying that somehow Smith went from a professional athlete to retired grandpa in terms of physical fitness over the course of a summer.”

        Agreed, he is in the press box because he thought he was a right wing for a few shifts, not because he all of the sudden has no stamina. Mentally he just needs to refocus and get back to that simple physical style he showed in the playoffs.

        • Egelstein says:

          I wish I had come up with that name for the press box, but I can’t claim credit. Someone on another blog coined it. But I like it so use it as well.

        • Chris A says:

          It happens all the time. NHL players in their late 20s need to take their respective summer programs far more seriously or their performance will drop off precipitously.

          Late 20s is when the legs first start to go and around that age lots of players have a down year, figure out they need to work harder next summer, and then manage to extend their NHL careers into their early/mid 30s. Smith is likely a victim of that same cycle, as that (or injury) is the only thing that can explain a perfectly fine NHL D turning into a clueless pylon in the space of one offseason.

  9. Resident Genius says:

    Don’t use logic to make decisions. AV don’t do dat. He has his instincts. Good point about playing your best players, however, AV rather play his favorite players.
    Don’t stone the messenger, the 2 elephants are still in the room. We will see the results again in the playoffs.
    Maybe the GM could switch the coaches in the playoffs when AV goes into his sabotage mode.

  10. sherrane says:

    “It’s no coincidence that the winning streak started when Alain Vigneault stopped with the silliness of dressing eleven forwards and seven defensemen.”

    That assertion is incorrect. The 11/7 game roster stopped after DeAngelo was sent to Hartford after the San Jose game. The Rangers then defeated Arizona and lost in Montreal. The actual point where the winning streak started was when Brendan Smith was benched in the 3rd period against Vegas with the Rangers trailing 4-2.

    “Kampfer is a replacement level NHL defenseman, Smith is a second pairing defenseman. A few games in October in his age-28 season is going to go against Smith’s prior body of work? I have a hard time understanding that logic.”

    I agree that Smith SHOULD be better than Kampfer. The problem is that he HASN’T BEEN. Are you really analyzing last year’s statistics to determine what went wrong THIS OCTOBER? When you analyzed the stats only for this October, they don’t make the point you wanted, correct?

    I’ll explain the logic that has eluded you to this point. Regardless of the league, games at the professional level are lost more often than they are won. That is the reason every coach has his “favorites”. Trusting a player to not make a crucial mistake is very important. This is key to understanding WHY the winning streak started with the benching of Smith… he has been making the critical mistake this season. It is maddening. It is frustrating to watch a limited player like Kampfer get beat. However, Kampfer is losing physically while Smith is losing mentally. You can deal with less physically gifted players if you know they will play consistently and you can compensate for their limitations. It is far more difficult to compensate for mental errors.

    Is it a fluke the Rangers are 3-7-1 with Smith in the lineup and 7-1-0 with Kampfer? Fun fact, the only game these two played in the same game was against Vegas. Smith’s last shift came with the Rangers trailing 4-2 and Kampfer’s last shift came with the game tied at 4.

    “One last reason to play Smith – you just invested four years and more money than I’ll make in my lifetime for a guy that is now riding the pine.”

    Sunk cost fallacy. The objective of the game is to win, not do the best you can with your highest paid players. If Pavelec is outperforming Lundqvist by a mile, Pavelec should be playing despite Lundqvist’s salary. You can’t unsign Smith. Your choice is to compound your mistake or to move on from it. If the Rangers are a better team with Rick Nash in the Press Box, he shouldn’t be playing.

    I remember when the Rangers signed Bruce Driver to a nice contract that included one of the first no-trade clauses in NHL history. Anyone remember how great Driver was? A friend of mine coined the phrase, “He has a license to suck”. Smith has not performed up to his salary in the cap era and we might be able to apply that phrase to him if he doesn’t get out of his funk any time soon.

    The Rangers need to upgrade Kampfer if they have any hope of going deep in the playoffs this season. It would be nice if Smith is that upgrade. Hopefully DeAngelo finds his game in Hartford if Smith isn’t that upgrade.

    • Dave says:

      “I agree that Smith SHOULD be better than Kampfer. The problem is that he HASN’T BEEN. Are you really analyzing last year’s statistics to determine what went wrong THIS OCTOBER? When you analyzed the stats only for this October, they don’t make the point you wanted, correct?”

      I did that on Friday: http://blueseatblogs.com/2017/11/10/friday-afternoon-thoughts-2/, leveraging this tweet: https://twitter.com/TomUrtzJr/status/928976176185569281?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

      I’m not saying Smith was good to start the season. He was horrendous. But Kampfer’s play has been at that level, only to be hidden by wins because of regressing SH%, as I mentioned in this post.

      “Is it a fluke the Rangers are 3-7-1 with Smith in the lineup and 7-1-0 with Kampfer? Fun fact, the only game these two played in the same game was against Vegas. Smith’s last shift came with the Rangers trailing 4-2 and Kampfer’s last shift came with the game tied at 4.”

      Yes it’s a fluke. It’s coincidence, nothing more. As I’ve stated for years now, you can have bad process and bad decisions and still lead to good things in the short term. However in the long term, bad decisions will rear their ugly heads.

  11. Bloomer says:

    Henk has been good no doubt, but the team in front of him have been scoring goals by the bushles. If the offence dries up again I can’t see this team having anywhere near the success that they have been having. Hockey is very much a team sport. When a player comes into camp out of shape he is letting his team down. I applaud AV for giving Smith sometime in the press box.

  12. Jake W says:

    They better get Smith back in the lineup he’s better than Kampfer even when he’s not in shape all the way! Like seriously we resigned him and are paying him 4 million a year give or take to sit in the press box? Come on…. Lord help us.

    • Bloomer says:

      Maybe next summer Smith will keep himself in shape rather then laying by the pool eating potatoe chips

      • Mikeyyy says:

        It’s a problem with big contracts. He likes New York. Doesn’t want to leave. Haha. He made his payday and let it slip.

        That was one good thing about Torts. Everyone came to camp in shape.

  13. Spozo says:

    Ok I think I’ve got it.

    We need a stable lineup, one that breeds chemistry and doesn’t mess with people’s heads if they don’t know who their defensive partner will be in 3 minutes. See what happened in the last few weeks when AV kept the same lineup?…… but amidst this winning streak we need to make changes.

    It doesn’t matter how much money you make, ice time and your position on the roster should be performance based……… Only if you’re name is Dan Girardi or Marc Staal, not Brendan Smith.

    Players should be held accountable for their on ice performance and how well prepared they were this offseason…….just not if you’re name is Brendan Smith and this team is paying you 4+million a year.

    Veterans need to be treated no different than youngsters in that if you make mistakes you ride the pine…… except for Brendan Smith, he has a history of being a better player.

    Ok I got it.

  14. Richter1994 says:

    If the truth is that Smith is out of shape then it’s on him and has to earn the right to come back on the ice.

    But given that Kampfer is the guy he will be replacing, that right should be as soon as Smith is in game shape, no matter what the team is doing at that time.

  15. pas44 says:

    AV lost the guy on the bench, JG sent AV a message and signed him for 4 years, AV wants to prove the guy isn’t needed, Smith could care less at this point, he’s in the first month of a 4 year deal, he came in at the trade deadline, probable doesn’t even own a home or have any roots here yet, being traded would suit him fine… and AV would love it…

    this is a MGT issue

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